Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stuffed Yellow Peppers With Israeli Couscous and Pesto

The large spherical couscous that we know as Israeli couscous actually has its origins in North Africa, where it is called muhamma. In Middle Eastern markets, you may find it labeled maghribiyya.

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup Israeli couscous

Salt to taste

1 large garlic clove (more to taste)

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

3 large yellow peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded

2 cups tomato purée or homemade tomato sauce

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh basil leaves for garnish

1. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous. Stir until the couscous begins to color and smell toasty. Add 2 cups water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the couscous is tender. Drain.

2. Turn on a blender or a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Drop in the garlic. When it is chopped and adhering to the sides of the blender jar or food processor bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the sides. Add the basil leaves and salt to taste. Turn on the machine, and add the remaining olive oil. Process until smooth. Add the cheese, and blend until incorporated.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a lidded casserole large enough to accommodate all of the peppers. Combine the couscous and pesto. Stir together. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Fill the halved peppers with this mixture, and arrange in the casserole. Pour the tomato sauce or purée into the dish. Cover and bake 45 minutes to an hour until the peppers are soft but still hold their shape. Remove from the heat, and serve hot or at room temperature, with some of the tomato sauce spooned over the top. Garnish with basil leaves.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: The cooked couscous will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator. The peppers can be made a day ahead and reheated or served at room temperature.

Nutritional information per serving: 281 calories; 2 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 9 grams monounsaturated fat; 3 milligrams cholesterol; 36 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 80 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 8 grams protein

Friday, August 26, 2011

Simple Vegetable Paella

You don’t have to make this vegetable-rich dish in a paella pan, though if you do, you’ll get a nice layer of crusty rice on the bottom. Serve it as a main dish or as a side.

1 quart chicken stock, vegetable stock or garlic broth

Generous pinch (about 1/2 teaspoon) saffron threads

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

1 green pepper, cut into strips

2 cups medium-grain rice

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and grated on the large holes of a box grater; or peeled, seeded and chopped; or 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice

1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in 1-inch lengths

2 or 3 baby artichokes, trimmed and sliced (may also use frozen artichoke hearts, sliced)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen lima beans

1 cup shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Crush the saffron threads between your fingertips, and place in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon warm water, and set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy frying pan, an earthenware casserole (cazuela) set over a flame tamer, or a paella pan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, about three minutes. Add the tomato paste, paprika and rice. Cook, stirring, for one minute until the grains begin to crackle. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they cook down slightly and smell fragrant, about five minutes. Stir in the saffron with its soaking water, scraping in every last bit with a rubber spatula. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Add the stock, green beans, artichokes and chickpeas or lima beans. Bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer without stirring until the liquid has just about evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the peas. Continue to simmer until the rice is dry, another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.

Yield: Serves six to eight.

Advance preparation: This does not have to be piping hot, so it can be made an hour before you wish to serve. If you make it further ahead than that, you can reheat it in the pan.

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 432 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 81 gramscarbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 13 grams protein

Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf

Uncooked, soaked red lentils have a refreshing flavor and a sproutlike crunch. They also retain their beguiling salmon hue, contributing welcome color to this pilaf.

1/4 cup red lentils

1 small onion

3/4 cup brown lentils

3 garlic cloves, 1 crushed, the other 2 minced

Salt to taste

1 cup coarse bulgur

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely ground

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, or a mixture of parsley and dill

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Juice of 1 lemon (to taste)

1. Place the red lentils in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Soak for up to two hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain. The lentils should taste fresh, with a pleasant crunchy texture.

2. Cut the onion in half. Finely chop one half, and set aside. Combine the other half, intact, with the brown lentils and crushed garlic clove in a heavy saucepan. Add the bay leaf and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still intact. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove the onion, garlic clove and bay leaf.

3. Place the bulgur in a 2-quart bowl. Place a strainer over the bowl, and drain the lentils so that the hot broth covers the bulgur. Add enough water to cover the bulgur by 1/2 inch. Cover the bowl, and allow the bulgur to sit until fluffy, about 20 to 30 minutes. Strain and press out excess liquid.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the minced onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin, and continue to cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in the bulgur and the brown and red lentils. Add the herbs and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and toss together. Remove from the heat, add lemon juice and pepper, taste and adjust salt. Serve hot or room temperature.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: You can make the pilaf hours ahead of serving, but do not add the herbs. Reheat in a microwave or in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, then stir in the herbs and serve.

Nutritional information per serving: 248 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 3 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 40 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams dietary fiber; 11 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 12 grams protein

Lemon Risotto With Summer Squash

Lemon risottos of any kind always delight guests. The lemon juice and zest are added to this comforting mixture at the end of cooking.

7 to 8 cups well seasoned chicken or vegetable stock, as needed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup minced onion

Salt to taste

1 pound summer squash (mixed varieties), diced

1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice

1 to 2 garlic cloves (to taste), green shoots removed, minced

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine, like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc

2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest

1 to 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Put your stock or broth into a saucepan, and bring it to a simmer over low heat with a ladle nearby or in the pot. Make sure that the stock or broth is well seasoned.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the squash and a generous pinch of salt. Turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring often, until the squash is translucent but not too soft, about five minutes. Stir in the rice and the garlic, and stir until the grains separate and begin to crackle. Add the wine, and stir until it has been absorbed. Turn the heat back down to medium, and begin adding the simmering stock a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until the rice is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock, and continue to cook in this fashion, stirring in more stock when the rice is almost dry. You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often.

When the rice is tender all the way through but still chewy, in about 25 minutes, it is done. Taste now and adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add another ladleful of stock to the rice. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and Parmesan. Remove from the heat. The mixture should be creamy (add more stock if it isn’t). Serve right away in wide soup bowls or on plates, spreading the risotto in a thin layer rather than a mound.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: You can begin up to several hours before serving. Proceed with the recipe, cooking halfway through Step 2 for about 15 minutes. The rice should still be hard when you remove it from the heat, and there should not be any liquid in the pan. Spread it in an even layer in the pan, and keep it away from the heat until you resume cooking. If the pan is not wide enough for you to spread the rice in a thin layer, transfer it to a sheet pan. Fifteen minutes before serving, bring the remaining stock back to a simmer, and reheat the rice. Resume cooking as instructed.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 400 calories; 3 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 6 grams monounsaturated fat; 9 milligrams cholesterol; 62 gramscarbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 365 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 14 grams protein

Daily Words of the Buddha, August 26, 2011

Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm,
even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.

Selo yathā ekaghano vātena na samīrati,
evaṃ nindāpasaṃsāsu na samiñjanti paṇḍitā.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Marinated Zucchini Salad

Raw zucchini can be a dull ingredient, but when it’s very thinly sliced it marinates beautifully, especially in lemon juice. I like to use a mixture of green and yellow squash here. Assemble this dish at least four hours before you wish to serve it, so that the squash has time to soften and soak up the lemony marinade.

1 pound medium or small zucchini, preferably a mix of green and yellow

Salt to taste

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, mint, chives, dill or a combination

1. Slice the squash as thinly as you can. Sprinkle with salt, preferably kosher salt, and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse and drain on paper towels.

2. Mix together the lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Toss with the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for four to six hours.

3. Remove from the refrigerator, and remove the garlic clove. Add the fresh herbs, and toss together. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.

Yield: Serves four.

Advance preparation: This dish will keep for a day or two, but it is best served just after the herbs are added. The lemony zucchini will lose its flavor over time.

Nutritional information per serving: 113 calories; 2 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 5 gramscarbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 11 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste), 2 grams protein

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